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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

April 30, 2010

The Horse You Have At Home

The horse you have at home is not the horse you will have at a ride. This little factoid is probably the most accurate piece of endurance information in my arsenal of bits and pieces of things a newbie should know. Why is it that at home you ride this lovely calm equine and at a ride it all blows apart and you are suddenly astride a fire breathing hopped up dragon? Or behaviorally things happen that you know your horse doesn't do at home? It is an interesting question to pose what is happening physiologically and psychologically to the horse in a ride environment. My last ride on Phebes here at home I was thinking how relaxing it was to ride her (can you BELIEVE those words came out me?). We moved forward, walked, we trotted, we cantered, we jumped up woodland creatures with nothing but a startle reaction. She drank at the creek, and munched grass when I asked her to. So what happens at a ride? Initially balking (no MOM! not THAT TRAIL, let's go back home, K?), but once hoof hits the trail she becomes this HUGE ANIMATED FIRE BREATHING DRAGON that I just happen to be sitting on. Lil Bit of Magic...becomes THE TERMINATOR. The horse that feels she must not only slay the trail, but thwart at every opportunity the passenger who dares to slow her down. Much wasted energy for all parties.

So at what juncture do you actually bring the horse from home, and then get to RIDE THE HORSE FROM HOME? Does it evolve over time with slow finishes? Does it ever evolve at all? ~E.G.


  1. EG at a ride YOUR nerves are up and she rides with other horses. Which she hardly gets to do with you at home. I know Nichole came over but you weren't trying to go endurance pace. Also, you need to practice/condition at the pace you will be going at in the endurance rides-or faster. ((not every time but at least some of the time)) There is a difference between pleasure riding and endurance riding.

    I just rode Shazam last night here at home. Well for 14 miles, leaving from my home. Out the way I went with you but then two more miles of pavement past to another two more miles of closed dirt road. I went with my neighbor who rode her half arab gelding. He was fine going down the first half of gravel wich we just walked/slow trotted and slow cantered a bit. Then walked and trotted some on the pavement. Get to the longer stretch of gravel and we race all the way to the top of the hill. (I did slow him down and stop him about half way up the hill so my neighbor could catch up). But once we reached the pavement my neighbor wanted to walk. Shazam would only prance. I could get him to go slow he would just prance. Any kind of running doesn't make him tired it makes him wired! But the bad thing was it was rubbing off on my neighbors horse and he was prancing too. (she has a bad knee). We prance with just a little walking little trotting the two miles to the gravel road then hand galloped down it and raced up it. Shazam was going the fastest he'd ever gone. Probably the fastest I've ever gone on an arabian before.

    We pranced the whole two miles back to the gravel and down the hill part of the gravel. Did a bit of a hand gallop to the stop sign. Where my neighbor stopped and waited while I took Shazam one mile down another gravel road and back. (at great speed). Then back home where they pranced. I would try Shazam in all positions. He would prance if he was in front, behind or beside my neighbors horse. I was hoping that my neighbors horse would walk when he got to be in front but unfortunately for my neighbor it didn't make a difference. The horses even pranced up my driveway. Trisha turned right to go home and I took Shazam left to go around the outside of the horse pasture at a WALK before I let him quit. As soon as the neighbor was out of sight Sahzam Walked. Even with my horses running around in the pasture beside us. He walked all the way around it and then I let him quit.

    I did almost that same length of ride on him on Sunday (in the rain) by ourselves and he was fine. I galloped him in the galloping spots and was able to walk him when I wanted him too. Grant it, I like to do a lot of trotting. But my neighbor wants to only walk or run. (hurts her knee too much to post I guess)

    BUT at his first endurance ride he was perfect! I wasn't asking him to walk the first half of the first loop, or there might have been some prancing. But he was much calmer than times (like the one I just mentioned) that I've rode him at home.

    Every horse and every ride is a little different for me. I think it is more challenging to ride around home than away from home, for the most part though. At home, my horses know where home is! And they challenge me or any rider a little more. But it also depends on who you are riding with and if your horse does better by it's self or with others.

    If you had always rode with other horses since Phebe was first started she might do better with other horses with her than alone. Might not too. Hard to know for sure. But horses can change, usually easier than people can.

    Stormy can gallop/race and then walk. She isn't a prancer. Hopefully she never will be. She has learned to do a much bigger trot and faster walk since I've had her. She likes going out with other horses than by herself. But she is great by herself too.


  2. I think every horse is different. But I'll share my experience.

    In Doc's younger days, I can remember taking him to lessons and events and not being able to ride at all because he was a powder keg. Now he is usually BETTER away from home than at HOME. At home, if we start working too hard, he KNOWS where the pasture is where he spends all his time relaxing, eating, and hanging out with his pasture buddies. On the trail or at a show or clinic, he only KNOWS me. So that is where he wants to be. But this was a gradual transition - 10 years later, he is a joy to ride anywhere. Of course, it didn't take all that time and he is not always perfect - like this week when I took him to SWWP and he was wound up by the couple hundred children running around playing baseball (talk about extra energy!).

    It gets better every year if you keep putting in the time and effort. :-) And I'm sure some horses take more/less time than others.

    I think you also have to factor in all the extra energy that more people and more horses bring. Horses are really sensitive to that and often feed off of it. It is their natural instinct to do so.

    Keep going - there is light at the end of the tunnel!


  3. Michelle, it is true that she is extremely sensitive to people's moods. My husband (who has always been kind to her, even at times he probably should not have) can be having a bad day....and boy she is like super RADAR in picking up on that mood, and acting out. So it makes sense that she would feed off of all the pre-ride hype. I did start Phebes with other horses for the first ten or twelve weeks under saddle she was training with experienced (middle of the pack riding) endurance riders/horses. That is what in my mind created that process of pulling...jumping around...YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU MET HER??? She is better than that now, but very exhausting at a ride as I work so hard to slow her down. You would not believe how much trail we took BACKING UP, YES BACKING UP at Chicken Chase.

    I know that if you want a front runner you need to train fast. I just don't think fast is good for Phebes at this point. Want her to be my "always" (GOD DID I JUST SAY THAT?) horse. Soundness & health are more important to me. Having a sane quiet horse is too. Please don't think I am faulting you, your horse's or your goals. I'm just extremely risk adverse. If I could describe the perfect horse for me or what I'd like to see from Phebes it would be:

    Perfect gait transitions at walk, trot, and canter. Meaning she respects the speed I want to go ALL THE TIME.

    A trotting speed between 6 & 9 miles per hour.

    A very relaxed and slow cantering speed of say 9-10 mph.

    All on a loose rein.

    A horse that eats without being finicky at rides.

    A horse that can haul without stress.

    A horse that can lead, or let another horse LEAVE WITHOUT THEM (this is our sticky area). She likes to lead, but gets all hissy fit if someone gallops off into the sunset without her which I guess is a very strong herd instinct.

    My girl has improved tremendously in the year or so we've been at this, but we have a LONG WAY TO GO.

    A horse that drinks like she just rode the Sahara.

  4. Also, the perfect horse (you just described) probably doesn't exist. Just my opinion. And first you have to be the "perfect" rider/owner to make the "perfect" horse. LOL!


  5. Michelle, you haven't met Doc. :-) He is almost just what Jacke described. We still have a few things to work on to get there 100% of the time, but I would say he is that about 90-95% of the time.

    But I've also had him for 10 years. It takes time to build that kind of relationship and as you mentioned, it takes two - both rider and horse.

    I have faith that Jacke and Phebes will get there!

    What's the point of goals if they are a challenge to achieve, eh?! :-)

  6. I sent a comment just before the one you posted. It must have gotten lost?

    Anyway I apologized for sounding so mean in my first comment. I can't even remember what I said now but I do think you are doing a good job with Phebe. I don't care wether you want to be a pleasure rider, fast endurance rider or slow endurance rider. I was just trying to say make sure you don't take her to an endurance ride and have her go alot farther and faster than she's trained for at home.

    I do remember that ride. The thing I remember about it was that you didn't seem to be in control or comfortable. When I rode with you here at my place this winter you were definately in control. You've come along way. It's what I would expect. And if she is doing great for you at home you should be happy! She will do better away from home with more experience.

    I bet, you are much more comfortable riding at home on familiar trails by yourself. So Phebe is too.

    My horses "usually" do worse at home and better away.


  7. Michelle,

    I didn't think you were being mean. We just have different styles :) You have awesome horses. I'm just not truly comfortable going fast yet, but I'm working on the canter, and trust issues with her. We are making progress (albeit slow...)


    You are right, Doc is about as close to the perfect horse as you can get. The day I get there will be incredible. Or the day she quits trying to bite me *LOL*

    Isn't it amazing what a vital role our horses play in our lives?

  8. I don't mean to sound like a pessamist but I feel like I need to write you about this. When you mentioned you were backing Phebe up on the trail, WHY? Did it teach her something? My motto is never back a hyper, worked up horse. It is just an invitation for a rear. Believe me I have experience in this. As a child my neighbor came over one time to ride my horse and I rode behind her. He was acting up and she decided to teach him by making him back. He started to rear. Then lost his balance and fell over. Luckily, we weren't hurt. I jumped off before he actually fell over. (she had another time with her own horse where she wasn't so lucky and was in the hospital with a broken pelvis for months)

    I've seen it happen many times. A worked up horse on the trail, in the arena for speed events, etc. They want to go forward, you are holding them back with their reins but still asking them to move. So they go up! My friend actually taught her arab to rear (don't ever do). And her mother would take pictures. Rearing is dangerous, even if you think you have it under control. She would ask the horse to back and then would urge her forward with her legs. It was easy to teach her.

    I rode a big, strong palomino that had pretty bad manners before I got my horses. He hadn't been riden for years until I came around. I had him going pretty good and trail riding by himself. The owners daughter wanted to ride too and took her very old, 20 something gelding out on the trail with me. The farther we got from home that old arthritic gelding became more and more athletic and animated. He spooked (on purpose) and the girl fell off. Then he took off at a gallop back home. Of course, my horse was absolutely in sane with the need to follow him!! I checked to make sure the girl was okay. Then I had a ton of work to do to make the gelding not run back home. But I did not need to back him. It's using your hands, body, seat and legs and timing that keeps a horse from going faster than you want. You may not be able to control the gait. He could canter in place, prance, side pass, but he was not going any faster than I would allow. By the time we got within site of the house he was calm and walking. It wasn't because of the horse, that he didn't run for home, it was the rider. If almost anybody else had been on that horse they would have had a wild ride home and could have possibly been hit by a car. Because we were on the other side of a busy road. (and believe me I thought about getting off but I am better in the saddle than on the ground. And I didn't want him to pull away from me and get hit by a car, or else I might have just got off)

    I've had trainers tell me backing is a very advanced move. You should be able to have excellent gait transitions, be comfortable cantering and be able to pick up leads before even starting to work on backing a horse in saddle. (and only when they are calm! Backing from the ground is great for horses. I recommend it be taught before the horse is started in saddle.

    I would suggest if she is worked up about going forward on the trail to not back up. You can stop her, you can turn her around and go the other way. Or you can just insist on your speed, let her do what ever gait she wants until she works herself out of it. Or if you feel she's being unsafe, get off.


  9. Michelle,

    Phebes was not "out of control" she was breaking gait. If she breaks gait, we halt, we back up, we do it over. She has at no time offered to rear. If she was truly "out of control" I would do a one rein stop, and hold her there until she calmed down, or I'd make her go the opposite direction (which rarely does anything for her hyperness).

    Phebes has a beautiful backup actually...even though we haven't worked out the other. A horse has to think about YOU in the back up, rather than chasing after someone, or barreling forward on the trail. It would be stupid to back up a horse having a total meltdown, but if my horse is just wanting to do the driving, I'm going to remind her that yes....I'm up there on her back, and we are rating my speed, NOT HER's. A horse should not just push and race forward just because they want to. That is an invitation for injury to horse or rider. I don't know it all (obviously) but I do know that. I don't feel a good endurance horse just goes out there and RUNS. I want a better horse than that even if I'm always somewhere in the middle or back of the pack and I'll do what I have to in terms of getting her attention to listen to me. We still might fail, but it won't be for lack of trying on my part.

  10. I still don't see how backing up is teaching her anything? Were you asking her to back up and she broke into a canter? If you were asking her to trot then if she canters bring her back to a trot. If you can't do that without stopping her first then she is "worked up", or you are. Do you want to back up the whole ride? The ones that back up the best are the ones that eventually get tired of it and rear. Or they will start backing up when you are not asking for it. Just warning you. Don't let yourself get angry and punish her by backing her. I'm telling you it will lead to trouble, eventually. (my horse had never reared before until he did the one time and went over)


  11. Michelle,
    If I had a horse that reared I would question myself as qualified to train my own horse or question the hands doing the driving. That is why I ask questions. Sometimes something someone says clicks, and works for us. You train YOUR horses to RACE. Your horses probably would be upset to be held back, it is not what they've been trained to do. Your friend as a rider WAS likely being mean, if the horse was bitted, and she was the horse yanking it backwards? Further, you are riding your horses for what you want out of them, I am riding my mare with a totally different logic, and if I feel she needs to stop, back up, get her brain back in gear with ME, then that is what she will do. That isn't being mean, it is teaching her something. I don't want her moving on adrenaline and herd instinct. I don't want THAT KIND OF HORSE. Granted, I do not have the perfect horse, but she is better than last year at this time when she was a raving maniac on trail. I have high expectations. The horse I like would not likely be a horse that you would either want, or enjoy riding. You'd think that horse was a dead head because you like to ride fast. My broader philosophy of a distance horse is probably more closely aligned with CTR in many ways, but that does not mean that we can't try endurance at our own pace. Slow, medium, or backwards.

    Lida's gelding is beautifully trained. Is he going to run at the front? Nope. But he is closer to the goal for me than a horse that will. She can take that horse and ride him anywhere. That is an awesome horse.

    Doing things your way with my horse last April almost freaking killed her. It was a very big wake up call for me. She is not suited to racing down the trail. She is 6 years old, under saddle one full year, still in elementary school.

    If you read or listen to any horse training clinician (modern) they will tell you that the key to a good "whoa" is a stellar back up. And a horse that is not respecting rider cue needs their head in gear. For your horse that might mean changing direction (which I also do sometimes) or it might mean stopping (with a one rein if the rider cue hasn't given the horse the picture yet), standing still, or yes....backing up.

    Your tone implied that I'm punishing my horse, and being mean to her. I guess I could be doing that, but I'm NOT. I'm trying to keep her mentally fit. When I was taking lessons this was exactly what the instructor had me do when a car would go by the arena and she'd break gait, or start acting stupid.

    I don't accept going 13 mph vs. 8 mph (when I want to go 8)good behavior. Nor do I accept breaking to the canter, just because she wants to. I've seen some really nice distance horses out there, and not ALL are fire breathing, no gear in their head but forward horses. Some are cross trained in dressage, or other schooling principles and are moving down the trail on a loose rein at the rider's dictated pace. It is beautiful when that all comes together. That is the horse I want in the long term. Will we win? Nope. We never will. But I'll end up with one helluva tough trail horse if I can get this process right (primary goal). Make sense?

    Preparing the Endurance Horse
    There is a difference between TRAINING & CONDITIONING.
    It is a good, thought provoking article, and more along my lines of thinking (which also incorporates the back up, and slow LD's as a vehicle to proper behavior and preparation for an endurance horse).

    We're just gonna have to agree to disagree on this one. You have beautiful, well-conditioned, speedy horses, and you place well on LD's and probably will on the broader picture of Endurance in the future. I'm not gonna...I'll probably be backing uphill for at least another year or so. ~E.G.


  12. Ah yes. The fire breathing dragon.

    I’m very familiar with this.

    Coming from race bred stock, Farley is very competitive. The breeder tells me that a characterstic of her breeding is that she’s VERY laid back in personality, but during a race situation “turns on” and that has been very true. My sweet, loving, easy going horse disappears and is replaced by a very business like know it all.

    About 70% of the time she starts on a loose rein and is an angel.

    1-2 times a year I have a BATTLE on my hands. I’m not sure what the difference is between the starts. I start similarly at most rides, but sometimes it’s a struggle.

    At American river she was actually REARING. Lovely. A side effect of her hocks feeling so good? If so I could have done without THAT particular “benefit”.

    Sometimes I can get her “pop” out of it, but most of the time, if she starts crazy then she will remain more “hyped” throughout the ride than normal. She’s controllable, but just won’t relax. I’ve tried a lot of things. She still takes care of herself when she’s hyped and any extreme behavior tends to disssapear within the first 30-60 minutes.

    Somethings that seem to help is NOT making her stand at any point. I get on and keep walking. I do NOT warm up a lot before a ride. I use the ride from my trailer to the trail as my warm up. I find if I can time it so I can ride fro mmy trailer DIRECTLY onto the trail with NO waiting at the trail head things go better. There’s something about riding in the milling crowd of horses waiting to start that does NOT set me up for success.

    If I have to tack her early, then I leave the trailer and have coffee at the main ridecamp while she stands tied. Esepcially if she’s not standing well at the trailer and is spinning/etc. Watching her stresses me out, which stresses her out.

    Riding the day before doesn’t seem to make a difference. For American river ride I took a dressage lesson the morning before (Friday). AR was the WORST start I’ve had in a LONG time, if possibly EVER (although Oroville was pretty bad in 2009 –running thorugh the bit - and 20 MT 2009 65 miler was also pretty bad –bucking).

    I never ever ride at ridecamp once I’m there. I don’t think it would make a difference, but I guess I can’t say until I’ve actually done it. In reality I’m usually too busy setting up my stuff for the next day and Farley does a really good job of zoning out at the trailer and preparing too (stuffing her face….) and I don’t want to disrupt that.

    Good luck – sorry I don’t have the magic pill. I don’t even have any assurances that once day you will always have a “good” horse at the start of a ride. I’m accepting the fact that 10-15% of my rides might have a rough start and as long as I have a contingency plan and don’t get frusterated I’ll probably be ok.

  13. Just read some of the latest comments and thought I would put my 2 cents into the backing conversation......

    I don't back Farley as correction or as a training method for a very specific reason - she has a habit/tendancy to suck back and not go into the bridle and be a bit "sticky". I want forward at all times, even in a back - she should not be escaping the bridle in the back, she should still be going forward in it.

    I'm not saying backing is good or bad, I'm just putting some more ocmmentary out there.

    I think I tend to use patterns (such as circles etc.) instead of backing for that reason.

    on the other hand, I seem to remember backing Minx more - she was more forward in the bridle and didn't suck back or back up when asked to go forward like Farley (probably because of her history as a cart horse). in her case I *think* I remember backing working well.

    it's hard to remember exactly since I tend to just do to a horse what I feel they need and don't usually think about "this is why I back this horse and not this one...." LOL. Which is unusally since I'm OCD about everything else.

  14. Subscribing to comments. :)

  15. Hmmmm....this was a nice little "gem".

    "I find if I can time it so I can ride from my trailer DIRECTLY onto the trail with NO waiting at the trail head things go better."

    That one is worth my give a try, more like a natural flow onto the trail without all the "I'm outa here" hoopla. Certainly can't hurt.

    My last ride was really pretty miserable. Partly the early race brain issue, but more than anything her forward trot was agonizing as the skin shaved off of my leg. Had that not been an issue we'd have been okay pace-wise on the entire second half.

    Phebes is doing alright. She's making forward progress, I just occasionally want the training issues to end, and the enjoyment to begin. Sometimes we have really good days here at home. Yesterday started out well, trotting nicely on a loose rein, then once we started doing cantering intervals she wanted to keep doing that. It's a balance, but we will keep hammering at it.

    (*note: we are doing cantering intervals to learn our balance and add that gait to training those specific muscles, not to race.)

  16. What advise did I give you the first time we rode together?

    Every ride I do, I thoroughly enjoy!!!! I absolutely love riding my horses. Here at home and at an endurance ride. The best endurance ride I ever had was just this last one at Chicken Chase. And it was my worst placing in a good many years. But I am so excited about how well my horse did and can't wait for the next one! (I race sometimes at home but I have never and will never race at an endurance ride!)

    You ask for advice. And I just try to help. I don't have a problem rating my horses. If they do happen to go faster than I want I just bring them back down to the speed I want. I never taught them by stopping them and backing them up. It is more than you HAVE to do, in my opinion.

    When riding becomes not fun for me. I will gladly quit. But that day hasn't come yet, and hopefully won't.

    Go Super Saver!!


  17. Michelle,

    I wasn't insinuating that you told me how to ride her and about killed her...

    We just aren't talking about the same thing here at all. I'm not sure how to make it clear that I don't want her to prance, pull, rate faster than I want or your advice in your last post(" you can just insist on your speed, let her do what ever gait she wants until she works herself out of it"). I want her to point her nose down the trail, go on a loose rein in a relaxed frame. That is it. Nothing else. I guess the simplistic way of putting it is I don't want a horse pulling to go faster. PERIOD.

    What I was trying to say about her "near death experience" was THAT WAS HOW I RODE HER AT 09 CC, doing all those things you just now said. (not that you told me to ride her that way then) We side passed, we cantered sideways, she pranced, she pulled, and I tried to let her just run it out by fighting her to keep her speed down(she did run it out ...completely). So the advice you gave me YESTERDAY I know already doesn't work with this particular horse at least for now.

    I do appreciate that your horses are phenomenal athletes, you train them to be that way, and you ride extremely well. I'm not saying you are doing wrong with your equines, I'm just saying I've already tried the advice in the previous post and it didn't work. I'm trying to get a hold of her MIND, which is where her greater problem lies. I can't let her dictate, gait, pace, direction, or speed. That was all I was trying to get across. Fighting a horse for control of these in a competition setting does not make for an enjoyable ride it just ramps up the stress for the horse and the rider in my case. You have to remember that there are three categories of riders in endurance. (those who race and enjoy that, those who are out to enjoy the day and the trail, and those that just want to live through it long enough to complete. Right now I'm the THIRD, but I want to be the SECOND.

    I hope you know that I had no intention of upsetting you, and that this post makes more sense.

    :( ~E.G.

  18. Jacke - sounds like you want Phebes to be physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced on a ride. Lots of riders can control their horses physically, but they don't necessarily think about the emotional and mental aspects of riding their horse. I am with you. I like my horse to be balanced and responding to me - not just physically, but also mentally & emotionally. It is just a different goal than simple physical control.

    I think the other thing to keep in mind is that each horse and rider is different and they have different goals. I've had many people tell me that backing and sidepassing are ways to rate your horse - those don't work for Doc on the trail, they just make him more emotional. Neither does pulling back on reins - all of these things gets him more fired up. Some horses (especially sensitive ones) just get more fired up the more you use your reins. I can control him physically with my reins and my seat, but I am not getting to his brain. What works for Doc is to circle or use a pattern until he can get his emotions back under control and he starts thinking and paying attention to me again. I find that I need to let Doc move his feet forward, I just direct the energy until his is thinking again. Patterns especially really get him thinking again - hard to tune out if someone is asking you circle around trees, go over logs, etc.

    If backing works for you to help Phebes rate her speed and get her mentally balanced, then use it.

    I think experimenting is key. Find what works for you and your horse. Advice is a great way to get ideas, but realize what works for someone else may or may not work for you.

    When your horse is so in tune with you that he seems to respond to your thoughts, you want that all the time. Doc can be like that at times and so I want that more and more. And he does every year, I see him getting more and more balanced. When he tunes me out, I do have to use the physical to get him back with me, but my goal is not just to get control of his body, but to make my idea his idea so he wants to do what I am asking and he's not just doing it because I am making him.

    It is definitely a journey and I love every minute - that doesn't mean I don't struggle, don't get frustrated, don't wonder if I am doing the right thing... But as long as I am learning, having fun, and my horse is improving, then I know I am on the right path for me and my horse.

    One of my favorite Pat Parelli quotes is this. (I may not have it exactly right...) "When you are done riding and look at your horse, can you say, was it as good for you as it was for me?" That is my goal that the ride would be enjoyable for both me and my horse.

    When your horse leaves his buddies in a 15 acre pasture to come meet you at the gate, I think that is a good sign. :-)

  19. *sigh*

    Yes...mentally balanced is what I'm driving at.


    Maybe I should quit for a year and do more lessons. I don't want to set a pattern of what we did this last time, the ride was tiring for us both, (she and I kind of hit the wall at 25 miles) though the outcome was a big surprise at the end. I guess I'm wanting a cross trained horse really.


  20. Michelle,

    Again...I'm offering a sincere apology that our conversation seemed to get off track. I was just trying hard to get my point across, and I can see from reading it that you may have misunderstood my intention.


  21. Just catching up on posts, EG, and wanted to throw my 2 cents in:

    My goal for Fiddle is that she enjoy whatever it is I am asking her to do. In order to achieve that goal, I had to figure out how to teach her what she needs to know in order to do the job safely and sanely so that *I* am not all freaked out and worried. If I'm freaked, I'm not having fun, and she isn't having fun either.

    It took a LOT of time. One of the best things I did for my horse was to delay her entry into endurance events for 2 years. She was physically fit, but she didn't have the skill set I wanted her to have.

    I wanted her to be able to walk/trot/canter and gait calmly, appropriately, and on a loose rein NO MATTER WHAT. To get there, I spent two years doing everything I could think of except endurance. We did lots of trail riding. We camped in the back country. She participated in gaming days, and learned to do tricks. I rode her in groups, and solo. I took lessons. We didn't start conditioning until January of this year, but I started training her 3 years ago. She learned to gracefully handle new and unfamiliar circumstances, and she learned to look to me for instructions.

    As a result, she behaved well AND was adequately fit for her first LD ride at the end of March. I will not hesitate to take her to another one as soon as the money fairy bonks me a few more times. I don't ride to "win", but I do want to be able to cross the start line and finish line on a loose rein with ears forward. The pace in the middle depends entirely upon the terrain and the weather, not upon the speed of the other competitors.

    I think it's interesting that Mel tries to go straight from the trailer over the start line, because with Fiddle it works best to warm her up A LOT (45 minutes!) before asking her to do something new/challenging. Possibly that will get shorter as she does more events. I'll keep y'all posted.